I’m a member (but mostly lurk) of a couple of facebook groups on whisky: the Australian Whisky Appreciation Society (AWAS) and the Highland Park Appreciation Society. I’m on the former cause it’s sorta local and I’ve been getting more and more into whisky. I’m on the latter as I think it was Highland Park that first made whisky click for me and it remains one of my faves. I have even been to the Orkney Islands, north of mainland Scotland, where Highland Park is located but that was before I’d gotten into whisky. I visited a few distilleries on the mainland via a backpacker’s bus and must have picked up some Highland Park duty free. There’s only two distilleries on Orkney, Highland Park and Scapa though I’ve never tasted the latter and they seem to be much smaller whereas Highland seems huge and expanding.
Anyways, there was a recent thread on AWAS about how many bottles people had, and how many they had open. I figured that bottles owned would range from a few to lots, while bottles opened would range from a few to a few more. I was a little wrong on the latter assumption. Most folk seemed to have a third to two thirds of their collection open. This is ok if you’ve got 10-20 bottles but beyond that it gets sort of scary. Some folk have 70 bottles with 60 opened, or several hundred with a few hundred open. I can see easily, how whisky can be as dangerous as book collecting.
Once you open a whisky it is affected by the air that gets in, some well some not so much. I know from my own experience that if you open a whisky and leave it a few years it can go a little off. For some whiskies, additional air improves it over several months. Others need to be drunk quickly. I recall having an 18 year old Glenfiddich that tasted horrible by the time I finished it a couple of years after opening.
Taking stock of my current state of play: I have 5 bottles open out of a total of 9. To be honest, I’m a bit staggered I have so many: both open and unopened. Every time I buy a new bottle it is tempting to open it immediately. Thankfully, regular tastings and whisky fairs has reduced that temptation and improved my appreciation. Plus I have a significant understanding of collectivitis via books which are my first priority. So far at least whisky collecting has proven cheaper than book collecting.
The 5 I have open currently include:
- Highland Park Viking Scars (10 year old) – very smooth, easy drop. It’s relatively cheap at $75 though lacks complexity. A nice, regular quaffer.
- McHenry 6th barrel release – oh my! I love this so. Molasses and toffee. A delish Tassie whisky. The distillery in Port Arthur was alas shut when we were in Hobart last but keen to visit next time. I did meet the man himself at the Oak Barrel’s Whisky Fair and it was lovely chatting to him. Last week I picked up the 3rd barrel release.
- Ben Nevis 1997 – 20 year old single cask, bottled specially for the Oak Barrel Whisky Fair. I have bottle 8 of 60. Delish but much improved with a few drops of water. At 48.6% alcohol it tastes much stronger but the water really opens it up.
- Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve – was on special recently at my local for $99 (from $134). The ultimate Yamazaki is the 18 year old that sells out quickly, even at $1,000+ and then re-sells for several thousand. I have tasted the 18 year old and it is yum but I ain’t paying stupid money. This one is nice and works well as a quaffer with a bit of character.
- Overeem sherry cask – this is probably my favourite whisky and comes from the last cask that Casey Overeem made before selling to Lark. This is my second bottle from that cask and it is oh so good. Overeem mostly mature in either port or sherry casks and while I don’t mind the port, I usually prefer the sherry cask.